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Using satellites and AI, Israeli climate tech maps out where carbon is hiding

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An Israeli company is combining artificial intelligence with satellite data in a potentially game-changing method for measuring carbon absorption on land — and eventually also at sea.

In doing so, Albo Climate, comprised mainly of Israeli tech specialists partnered with environmental experts from overseas, looks set to contribute to the battle to curb global warming and climate change by helping to scale up the removal of carbon from the atmosphere.

The Tel Aviv-based company, established in 2019, is able to use data from satellite-mounted sensors to create a detailed map of where carbon is being stored away, allowing landowners and governments to profit by selling offset credits to polluting companies.

It does this by first amassing real carbon data that has been collected by hand, for example by measuring tree trunk diameters to calculate the increase in biomass (see below), or taking soil samples for analysis by laboratories. It does this each time it tackles a new type of habitat.

Using machine learning, the company teaches the tech to combine the data from the satellite sensors — which can scan vegetation both above ground and up to 30 centimeters (one foot) below, where the soil and roots are — with the real-world information, allowing it to recognize patterns that can be used as the basis for carbon predictions in similar settings elsewhere.

“AI finds correlations that a human wouldn’t,” said Ariella Charny, chief operation officer for Albo.

All life on the planet, from humans to the smallest plant, is carbon-based.

For hundreds of millions of years, nature has balanced the carbon that enters the atmosphere with that which leaves it and becomes stored. Respiration, for example, emits CO2, as do volcanoes.

Plants, as well as seaweed and ocean phytoplankton, absorb it when they photosynthesize to make glucose, a carbohydrate. When plants die, they take the carbon with them, eventually turning into carbon-storing materials such as coal.

But that balance has been thrown off........

© The Times of Israel

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